The Switch II: Clockwork (excerpt)
~Book 1:The Switch~
Z100 stood on the tube platform waiting for the next car. She was dressed in a one-piece, white jumpsuit and thigh-high boots: standard dress for the upper city. Pods only seated three to a car, and were propelled by compressed air through tunnels that webbed across Tyrol. Access was granted through palm recognition scanners.
On her left, a Latino couple waited for the car. The man was dressed in a derby hat and striped pants with suspenders; the woman wore a bustier, and skirt with petticoats. Their musty smell reached her, and she wrinkled her nose in disgust.
At least these cars are self-cleaning.
An egg-shaped pod slid to a stop in front of her. She pressed her palm against the scanner and then shot an icy glance at the couple.
They looked away. They knew better than to try to ride with her. Under dwellers were not permitted to socialize with city residents, and only ventured above ground to work. They would wait for the next car.
The hatch door lifted and she stepped inside, sitting on a cushion beside the three-inch window. The pod sped off, and Z100 gazed out the window: the rounded towers of York were a blur of beige and white. In the distance, she glimpsed the tripod mansion of the supreme leader.
The car reached her platform. Z100 stepped out of the transport tube and climbed into a waiting hover craft.
“Where to, ma’am?” a mechanical voice asked.
“Mulberry 5000.” The hover craft zoomed forward.
In minutes, Z100 had climbed out on her porch that stood miles above ground. She stood at the door of her oval-shaped condo, and placed her palm against the flat box beside the door. A laser strip slid down her palm.
There was a brief hum. “Welcome home,” her house announced.
The clear hatch lifted and she stepped inside. Z100 walked up the floating staircase to her bedroom, and undressed in front of her mirror, turning to the side so she could admire her implants.
Her honey-brown skin and thick, bobbed hair were natural. But her green eyes and full lips had cost a pretty credit—as had her 38 C breasts. Naked, Z100 twisted again to admire her waist and rounded hips, also natural, then slipped on the kimono lying across the bed.
Adjacent to the king-size bed, was a picture window with a stunning view. She walked over to it and stood for a moment looking out over the city’s multicolored lights.
“You look beautiful, Ms. Z100,” the house said in a baritone male voice, “as always. What would like for dinner?”
“Broiled fish with sea salt, green salad and white wine.”
Z100 walked down the stairs into her living room. Across from the futon and coffee table were three opaque closets. An android stood inside each one, clothed only in white trousers.
She lingered before them, choosing a dinner date. She decided on the third one, Jason, a robot with chocolate skin, exquisitely defined muscles and a nappy cap of hair.
Z100 punched in the definition codes on the curved stand beside the closet: Dinner in 20 minutes. Dress: casual. Language…
At this she hesitated. English tapes sounded so flat lately. But other dialects were worse. The tapes were recorded by under dwellers who were paid only a fraction of a credit for each one. So they were stepping on them—using the original track to produce five, even ten, more tapes.
They were given an upgrade today, but it probably won’t make any difference. To hell with it. She typed in: Language: English.
She pushed set and the android stepped jerkily out of the closet, walked past her and up the stairs. From his chip, he knew to pull male clothing from her closet and dress.
Minutes later, Jason came down the stairs and sat in the dining room alcove. Another robot began to set the table. The second one had a head with only the semblance of a nose and mouth. Beneath its pink shoulders were a metal torso and limbs.
At times, Z100 longed for a real man, but she’d never mate.
In the twenty-fifth century doing so was dangerous.
Her line of work made it even more deadly.
Tyrolean law said that women and darker peoples were second-class citizens. Women of color had the lowest rungs on this ladder. Poor whites were also assigned lower class citizenship.
Once a woman married, all of her credits became her husband’s. And forced marriages, as well as the murders of newly wedded women, were not uncommon.
Z100 had been a key player in the war that unseated the first rulers, catapulting her to the top class. Because of her role in the coup d’état she, and a handful of other female spies, were immune to these laws.
But if she were to marry this would change. Even taking a lover was risky. She’d heard of wealthy women drugged by men they were sleeping with, waking up to find themselves married. And penniless.
The overthrow of the old regime had created a class of ultra-wealthy Tyroleans. The rest became under dwellers —those who lived under the city and earned only enough for food, shelter and oxygen; like her housekeeper Simone2.
And because Z had helped to overthrow the old world, because she worked as a spy to make sure nothing changed, she was hated. She had enemies everywhere—men and women who’d cheerfully murder her to bring down the society she’d helped create.
Z100 sauntered over to her futon, sat down and pushed a button on the underside of the end table next to the couch. The top of the table flipped over, revealing the keyboard hidden underneath. She twirled the dial of her wristband to release a disc and slid it into the front of the keyboard.
Z100 tapped the play key. A holograph of a thirtyish black man appeared. This was H36 a lawyer suspected of being sympathetic to the rebels. As she looked on, the man stepped from behind his desk to meet with a client.
She sighed. God, he’s boring. She forced herself to watch for another twenty minutes. He’s clean.
Z reached over and pushed the next button on her keyboard. The image vanished and another holograph took its place: this one of an older white man. Like the target before him, T40 was dressed in tunic and slacks. But he wasn’t alone.
Z’s lips curled up in a tiny smile. This ought to be good.
She pushed pause, got up and went into the kitchen, detouring around her android butler to pour a glass of wine, then made herself comfortable on the futon once more.
As she looked on, the target unzipped his jumpsuit and pushed it down. His blond companion sauntered over to his desk, and slipped off her pants. She straddled him, curling an arm about his neck. With her other hand she unzipped her tunic to bare her plump breasts. Moans of pleasure filled Z100’s apartment.
Z100 watched them, arousal spreading down her pelvis. She cut the tape off, got up and poured herself another glass of wine. She’d planted the tiny cameras in the men’s offices. They were later retrieved by spies posing as under dweller janitors.
I should send him a holograph thanking him. I bet the rest of the tapes are nowhere near this interesting. He’s clean too. Nobody cares about him knocking off a piece of tail in his office.
“Dinner’s ready, Ms. Z100,” the house announced.
She smirked. Time for my date. She pushed the button on the underside of the desk, hiding the console. You couldn’t be too careful.
She walked over to the alcove and sat down facing Jason. The robot butler sat the plates in front of them, then two glasses for more wine. The android wouldn’t eat of course, but it would spoil the mood to have an empty place sitting in front of him.
Z100 smiled, her teeth flashing against her honey-brown skin. Her smile activated his AI chip, cuing Jason to respond to dinner conversation.
Jason blinked and shifted in his chair. “Good evening, Z100,” he said in a rich baritone. “You look lovely tonight.”
Boy, he’s good! This is one of the best I’ve heard! She made a mental note to buy from the same shop when his tape wore out.
How was your day?” she asked.
His lips spread in an amazingly human smile. “I missed you…I thought about you all day.”
Her question had stimulated a second response chip. Different questions triggered different menus. But he was still a robot—still chemically treated human skin stretched over plastic limbs.
Gazing at his ebony face, Z100 pushed herself to forget this reality and embrace the fantasy.
“We’re finishing up the senators’ profiles for the next election,” Jason went on. “But it’s all for show. They aren’t going anywhere. Citizens aren’t going to vote—not in this century.”
The android was hardwired to “believe” he was a politician. Candidates, including the supreme leader, weren’t voted in. They were appointed to lifetime terms.
Very realistic dialogue, thought Z, I am so loving this tape! Outloud she said: “You better watch your back— the rebels are waiting for a chance to gun you down.”
He flashed his gorgeous smile again. “We got enough snipers on the payroll to handle anything they throw at us. How was your day?”
Z100 gulped her wine. She felt giddy, reckless. And his brown eyes were so intense.
“How about my life story instead?” she blurted, her eyes hard and bright. “Once upon a time there was a little girl working as a courier for the most powerful man in Tyrol. Don3000 the supreme leader.”
“She was screwing him too, so she had access to his most private files. She plotted with his enemies to have him and the heads of state killed and replaced with look-a-likes.”
Z giggled hysterically. “The imposters pushed through laws to have senators appointed to lifetime terms. Then they shifted credits to a lucky few and the little girl — that would be me — became rich beyond her wildest dreams!”
“I’m still a courier. But now I’m a courier of death. One word from me,” she popped her fingers, “and that’s it. And because I’m so well liked, at the end of the day I get to eat—and screw—an android. No real man, no real love for me. Not ever. Not if I want to keep my head attached to my shoulders.”
“There endth my story.” She took another sip of her wine. What’s wrong with me? I must be drunk!
Copyright 2012 Valjeanne Jeffers all rights reserved